Celebrating History Week 2021: “From the ground up”

Happy History Week! The History Council of NSW has curated a fantastic line-up of activities exploring this year’s theme: “History: from the ground up”. 

If you’re looking for your next history read, here are some recent and forthcoming highlights from the SUP list (you can explore more on our website).


Cover of Djalkiri: Yolngu Art, Collaborations and Collections


Djalkiri: Yolŋu Art, Collaborations and Collections

Edited by Rebecca Conway

Djalkiri are “footprints” – ancestral imprints on the landscape that provide the Yolŋu people of eastern Arnhem Land with their philosophical foundations. Djalkiri: Yolŋu Art, Collaborations and Collections describes how Yolŋu artists and communities keep these foundations strong, and how they have worked with museums to develop a collaborative, community-led approach to the collection and display of their artwork.

From the early 20th century, anthropologists and other collectors acquired artworks and objects and took photographs in Arnhem Land that became part of collections at the University of Sydney. Later generations of Yolŋu have sought out these materials and, with museum curators, proposed a new type of relationship, based on a deeper respect for Yolŋu intellectual frameworks and a commitment to their central role in curation. This book tells some of their stories. It includes contributions from Yolŋu elders and artists as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous historians and curators. Together they explore how the relationship between communities and museums has changed over time.

Featuring over 300 colour images, Djalkiri was published to coincide with a landmark exhibition of Yolŋu art at the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum. 


Cover of Recording Kastom


Recording Kastom: Alfred Haddon’s Journals from the Torres Strait and New Guinea, 1888 and 1898

Edited by Anita Herle and Jude Philp

Recording Kastom brings readers into the heart of colonial Torres Strait and New Guinea through the journals of British zoologist and anthropologist Alfred Haddon, who visited the region in 1888 and 1898.

Haddon’s published reports of these trips were hugely influential on the discipline of anthropology, but his private journals and sketches have never been published in full. The journals record in vivid detail Haddon’s observations and his relationships with Islander communities, who played a crucial role in recording local kastom. This collaboration resulted in an enormous body of materials that remain of vital interest to the communities where Haddon worked, and to scholars of history, anthropology, linguistics and musicology. Haddon’s journals provide unique and intimate insights into early anthropology and into the colonial history of the region.

Recording Kastom gives readers access to Haddon’s journals along with comprehensive notes, a rich array of photographs and drawings, and essays providing historical and cultural context and contemporary Islander perspectives on the journals’ significance.


Cover of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop


Eliza Hamilton Dunlop: Writing from the Colonial Frontier

Edited by Anna Johnston and Elizabeth Webby

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (1796–1880) arrived in Sydney in 1838 and became almost immediately notorious for her poem “The Aboriginal Mother”, written in response to the infamous Myall Creek massacre. She published more poetry in colonial newspapers during her lifetime, but for the century following her death her work was largely neglected. In recent years, however, critical interest in Dunlop has increased, in Australia and internationally and in a range of fields, including literary studies; settler, postcolonial and imperial studies; and Indigenous studies.

This stimulating collection of essays by leading scholars considers Dunlop’s work from a range of perspectives and includes a new selection of her poetry.


Cover of Recording Convict Lives


Recovering Convict Lives: A Historical Archaeology of the Port Arthur Penitentiary

By Richard Tuffin, David Roe, Sylvana Szydzik, E. Jeanne Harris and Ashley Matic

The World Heritage-listed Port Arthur penitentiary is one of Australia’s most visited historical sites, attracting over 400,000 visitors each year. Designed to incarcerate 480 men, between 1856 and 1877 thousands of convicts passed through it.

In 2016, archaeologists began one of the largest ever excavations of an Australian convict site. Recovering Convict Lives: A Historical Archaeology of the Port Arthur Penitentiary makes their findings available to general readers for the first time. Extensively illustrated, it is a fascinating journey into the inner workings of the penal system and the day-to-day lives of Port Arthur convicts.

Through the things they left behind – gambling tokens dropped between floorboards, a clay pipe discarded in a washroom, the sandstone base of a prison wall – this book tells their stories.


Cover of The Gazelle's Dream


The Gazelle’s Dream: Game Drives of the Old and New Worlds

Edited by Alison Betts and W. Paul van Pelt

Once the world’s prairies, grasslands, steppes and tundra teemed with massive herds of game: gazelle, wild ass, bison, caribou and antelope. Humans seeking to hunt these large fast-moving herds devised a range of specialised traps that share many characteristics across all continents. Typically consisting of guiding walls or lines of stones leading to an enclosure or trap, game drives were designed for a mass killing. Construction of the game drive, organisation of the hunt and processing of the carcass often required group co-operation and in many cases game drives have been linked to seasonal gatherings of otherwise scattered groups, who may have used these occasions not only to hunt, but also for social, ritual and economic activities.

The Gazelle’s Dream: Game Drives of the Old and New Worlds is the first comparative study of game drives, examining this mode of hunting across three continents and a broad range of periods. The book describes the hunting of bison in North America, reindeer in Scandinavia, antelope in Tibet and an extensive array of examples from the greater Middle East, from Egypt to Armenia. The Gazelle’s Dream will be of value to anyone with an interest in the history of hunting and wildlife management.


Cover of South Flows the Pearl


South Flows the Pearl: Chinese-Australian Voices

By Mavis Gock Yen

South Flows the Pearl is a fascinating journey through the history of Chinese Australia. Taking the reader from Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta to Sydney, Perth, Cairns, Darwin, Bendigo and beyond, it explores the struggles and successes of Chinese people in Australia since the 1850s, as told in their own words.

This unique book was written by an insider. Mavis Yen was born in Perth in 1916, the daughter of a Chinese father and an Australian mother. She lived in both countries and understood what it meant to navigate two worlds, to live through war and revolution, and to experience racial discrimination. In the 1980s she began interviewing elderly Chinese Australians, recording hours of conversations. Her intimate understanding of their languages and life experiences encouraged them to share their stories. Published here for the first time, they will change how you think about Australian history.